THINK network launch a

A patient is rushed to Trillium Health Care Centre apparently suffering from a heart attack.

In a matter of minutes the emergency team at the Mississauga, Ont.-based hospital electronically searches and retrieves all of the person’s health care records from multiple sources – pharmacist, cardiologist and family doctor. These assorted records (accessible on a variety of devices – laptops, PDAs, desktops) enable the physician on duty to assess risks and administer timely treatment that saves the patient’s life.

The incident described above is not gee-wiz fiction. According to Chris Power, Trillium’s vice-president, patient services it’s an everyday example of what the future will be like at the hospital.

The project that will make it all happen was launched Tuesday at Trillium.

Dubbed THINK – Transforming Health Care into Integrated Networks of Knowledge – the seven-year, Can$ 100 million initiative will harness products and services from eight global technology companies to connect patients and healthcare professionals in a continuum of care.

The ultimate vision, said Trillium president and CEO Ken White, is an entirely new model of healthcare – with the patient at the centre.

By contrast, he said, the prevailing healthcare model puts the hospital and the doctor’s office at the centre as “those are places where medical decisions are made, records kept, tests done, and diagnoses conducted.” The new and preferred patient-centric model, he said, is “consistent with Trillium’s vision.”

Transforming that vision into reality, however, is proving to be no easy task. It has called for a great deal of collaborative thought and planning. (Those involved in ‘THINK’ say there could not be a more appropriate acronym for the initiative!).

Monday’s announcement was a milestone in a process that was flagged off in 2002 when Trillium began its search for the right technology partners.

“We (wanted) suppliers who could work with Trillium and our community to transform healthcare,” said the hospital’s chief information officer Wayne Mills. “We realized no one supplier could accomplish this. We needed a new paradigm, a new way of working.”

So the hospital announced an open bid process that Mills says created quite a stir. “There was a tremendous response from the supplier community and (we received) bids from more than 40 different consortia.”

Eight technology vendors were eventually selected and invited to participate in the THINK Alliance because of their expertise.

IBM Canada Ltd. is the overall program and project manager and also offers consulting and systems integration expertise;

Eclipsys’ clinical information system will be the cornerstone of an integrated patient health record;

Cognos’ will deliver timely business intelligence (BI) to Trillium decision makers through Web, e-mail and wireless technologies;

Agfa will enable the shift from film to digital-based diagnostic imaging;

IMS Maxims will provide applications that manage illness and disease beyond the hospital walls and across the community;

Sybase brings transactional and hierarchical database and transactional management systems for operational data;

EMC will supply advanced storage technology; and,

Courtyard will offer systems integration and interfacing support.

The alliance partners are set to create what Rik Ganderton calls one of “the most advanced healthcare transformation and technology projects in the world.” Ganderton is leader of the Canadian National Healthcare Industry Group at IBM Business Consulting Services.

“THINK,” he said, “will change how the community sees its hospitals – not simply as buildings, but as a network of medical and healthcare expertise and knowledge integrated with community and family networks.”

According to White, THINK will serve as the antidote to many challenges afflicting the healthcare sector today. “Our systems today are inefficient and time consuming. Our networks are rudimentary and not integrated. Practitioners spend (more) time dealing with paper than with patients.”

He said unconnected parts of the healthcare system drive up costs and drive down efficiency – and that’s something several key reports recognized and sought to rectify.

White recalled that back in 2002 the Romanow Commission report called electronic health records one of the keys to modernizing Canada’s health system. “In 2003, senator Kirby’s report said there was a pressing need to seriously upgrade IT, and just two weeks ago the Canada Health Council report said wiring the country is necessary for healthcare reform.”

The collective vision of these reports, he said, is being realized in THINK. “We can and must do better. And doing better is the goal of THINK.”

According to a Trillium statement, funds for the project will be raised in three ways – reallocation of internal resources, reprioritizing capital investments and reinvesting savings from efficiencies achieved in clinical and non-clinical areas.

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